Pope to meet refugees, poor during his visit to Balkans

Friday, Apr. 26, 2019
By Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis will take part in several interreligious events as well as a visit to a refugee camp and a meeting with the poor in St. Teresa of Kolkata’s hometown during a three-day visit to the Balkans.

The pope is scheduled to travel to Bulgaria May 5-7 and North Macedonia May 7.

During his visit, the pope will also celebrate the first Communion of a group of children in Rakovski – the city with the largest number of Catholics in Bulgaria, which is predominately Orthodox. Catholics make up less than 1 percent of Bulgaria’s more than 7 million people.

The visit includes meetings with government authorities as well as Orthodox and other religious leaders. He will also participate in an ecumenical prayer service in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia.

The Republic of North Macedonia is about 64 percent Orthodox, 33 percent Muslim and less than half of 1 percent are Catholic or belong to other Christian denominations.

Pope Francis will make history as the first pope to visit North Macedonia, which declared independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

On the final day of his trip, the pope will meet with poor people in the Macedonian capital, Skopje, which is the birthplace of St. Teresa of Kolkata.

The motto for the trip to Bulgaria is “Pacem in Terris” (Peace on Earth), the title of a 1963 encyclical by St. John XXIII, who served in Bulgaria 1925-35 as a Vatican diplomat.

“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock” from Luke 12:32 was chosen as the theme for the visit to North Macedonia. The logo for the trip features red and gold, the colors of the nation’s flag, and three blue stripes bordering the bottom to echo the blue stripes of Mother Teresa’s white sari.

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